People who have owned a cat ever since they were little children are in for bad news. According to a new study, cat ownership in childhood might be linked to schizophrenia development in adulthood.
The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the Stanley Medical Research Institute who analyzed more than 2000 surveys conducted by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1982.
The results of the survey showed that 50 percent of the patients who suffered from such mental disorders had at least a cat when they were little.
This unpublished survey was compared with two other studies that also dealt with the possibility of developing schizophrenia later on in life if the person owned a cat during childhood. They were not surprised to see that the studies showed similar results.
Nevertheless, the study does not show a direct connection between schizophrenia and Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that infects warm-blooded animals, including people. This is mainly due to the fact that the researchers could not be sure if the people surveyed had tested positive for Toxoplasmosis.
Even so, given the fact that there is research available that shows a link between this parasite and various mental disorders, it is safe to assume there might be a grain of truth in this hypothesis.
Toxoplasma gondii, or “toxo” can be found in the cat’s feces. This can contaminate people who ingest particles of the feces whenever they remove the tray or eat fruit and vegetables from the garden without washing them first.
There are many people who carry this parasite in their body but most of them are unaware of this. In fact, toxo mainly affects people who have a weak immune system and, if it does, it can have devastating consequences, including miscarriages or underdeveloped fetuses and blindness.
This is why we need to learn how to protect ourselves from getting the parasite, by discarding the cat’s litter box regularly and paying attention to both our hygiene and the pet’s.
However, other experts tend to disagree with the results of the study, saying that more research should be carried out in the field before we jump to such conclusions.
One of them is dr. Hayden Schwenk, who is a pediatric infectious disease specialist working at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford, and who says that “there may be an association but that doesn’t mean there’s causation.”
Therefore, people don’t need to get rid of their cats right away, but take preventive measures instead and stay tuned for further research studies in the field.
Image Source: pet360